Peaches & wine ice-cream

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At Fatamorgana, a chain of modernist gelato shops in Rome, one of the flavors on offer was a peach and wine combination. It sounded to me like these two would go together very well indeed, and so I didn’t hesitate to point out the beautifully salmon colored concoction to the vendor.

The gelato was so soft and smooth, it had an almost perfect texture. I could tell they had used fresh peaches to make this ice-cream. It was almost as if you were eating straight up peach puree. Harder to detect was the wine. In fact I couldn’t pick it out at all. Perhaps it had simply blended into the peach.

Fear Factor – 0 / Taste Test – 7

Sea buckthorn sorbet with licorice toffee

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I had written before about a licorice and sea buckthorn chocolate I tried in Finland at the airport. To my surprise I came across another variation of this combination at restaurant Ed Red in Krakow. It was a sea buckthorn sorbet, served with chewy salted licorice toffees and mini meringues.

The sorbet was quite sour, as sea buckthorn is an acidic fruit, but it wasn’t unpleasant. It worked very well together with the salty toffee that h ad a hint of licorice in it. The balance of flavors was almost perfect. My only slight criticism is that I found the meringues lacked crunch.

Fear Factor – 0 / Taste Test – 8

Black rice & rose ice-cream

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Italy is renowned for its gelato, a softer and smoother form of ice-cream. There are many old shops that have been making ice-cream for decades, but I decided to visit Fatamorgana, a modernist ice-cream parlor with some interesting flavors. The black rice & rose ice-cream definitely intrigued me, but on the picture it’s hidden beneath two other flavors.

The ice-cream was gray in color, due to the black rice, and had a lot of grains of rice running throughout it. The rice was cooked as the Italians love their pasta, al dente. It was therefore a bit tough and chewy, but that did give an interesting texture to the otherwise smooth gelato. I was worried that the rose flavor might be overpowering as is so often the case, but it was only there on the background. The black rice was the real star here.

Fear Factor – 1 / Taste Test – 7

P.S. on the picture the ice-cream is covered by two different flavors of ice-cream which I will wrote about soon.

Tomato granita

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Every day I show pictures of unusual things I eat as a snack or at restaurants, but I actually do most of my eating in the confines of my own home as I love to cook. At one occasion I whipped up a 13-course Italian inspired dinner with wonderful things like truffle, balsamico and pine nuts.

Inspired by the colors of the Italian flag and the flavors of a Caprese salad, I set about creating a savory pre-dessert. I made a layered dish with the bottom layer being a tomato granita, the middle layer a home-made ricotta & parmesan mousse and the top layer a basil oil.

I didn’t know beforehand if this would work, as I never saw anyone making tomato ice. In order to balance out the sweetness, and not turn it into a dessert I mixed in some vinegar with the freshly juiced tomatoes. On its own it was nice, but I wouldn’t eat a whole bowlful. Mixing it with the cheese mousse and basil oil, however, worked like a charm. It was a wonderful combination, and the difference in temperature made for an interesting eating sensation.

Fear Factor 1 / Taste Test – 7

Rose & lychee ice-cream

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A while back I wrote about this amazing little ice-cream parlor in Shanghai called Pree. Here they make ice-cream to order, so it’s always fresh, and they use Swiss Michelin starred chef’s secret recipes. When I was there I not only tried the truffle and Sichuan pepper ice-cream, but also the rose & lychee one.

Rose water is very strong and perfumy and can be overpowering quickly. Lychee also has a perfumy quality, and it’s no wonder the two mix very well. Although it’s a little difficult picking up the lychee notes as the rose is so overpowering. I did like the ice-cream as it was super soft and silky, and although strong, the rose did taste really nice. The addition of crystalized rose pedals made for a nice extra touch as well.

Fear Factor – 0 / Taste Test 8

Halo Halo

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Teaching in China has the great benefit of long holidays and many nearby places to choose from. One of my travels during spring holidays was to the Philippines. I know the locals there are super proud of their food, but I just wasn’t blown away by it. One dish I loved though was a dessert called “halo halo”.

In essence it’s an ice-cream sundae with lots of added goodies. Some of those additions are were quite foreign to me, such as corn, purple yam ice-cream and some plantains. I thought the dish was amazing, especially in the beautiful surroundings of Spanish Vigan. On their own I might not have enjoyed the purple yam or corn, but mixed together it all worked quite well.

Fear Factor – 2 / Taste Test – 9

P.S. remember you can still vote for which dish I will try on my next holiday to Poland.

Chili, pretzel & salt Magnum

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I love chocolate, and I love ice-cream, so for me there’s nothing better than a Magnum. I’ve always loved their smooth velvety ice-cream with its crispy chocolate coating. During my trip to Florence, Italy I stumbled upon a Magnum restaurant where you could assemble your own creation. I, of course, had to try.

I chose the dark chocolate coating and jumped on the savory sweet wagon with a sprinkle of pretzel, salt and chili flakes. The pretzel and the salt worked wonderfully with the dark chocolate. The chili flakes on the other hand were too overpowering. My mouth felt like it was on fire.

Fear Factor – 0 / Taste Test – 5

Mustard ice-cream

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For my 3rd anniversary my partner and I had an outrageous lunch at two Michelin starred restaurant Beluga in Maastricht, the Netherlands. The meal consisted of about ten courses with a major emphasis on fish and seafood.

There were quite a few modern techniques and interesting surprises throughout the meal, but the biggest surprise came when I bit into an ice-cream that turned out to be a mustard ice-cream. I’d never had a savory ice-cream before and of course mustard is a very strong and pungent flavor. The heat of the mustard and the cold of the ice-cream made a really unexpected contract that worked extremely well.

I’d never eaten at a Michelin-starred restaurant before, and I always wondered if a restaurant with a star really put up food that is so much “better” than other restaurants. It definitely is the case for Beluga. Not only is everything cooked to perfection and tastes amazing, it’s also full of surprises and is a feast for the eyes.

Fear Factor – n/a / Taste Test – 9

P.S. I can’t give it any score for Fear Factor as I didn’t know I was going to eat it.

Nitrogen ice-cream

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The great chef Ferran Adria is credited with revolutionizing food through science, creating molecular cooking and inspiring chefs like Heston Blumenthal, Grand Achatz and Alvin Leung. It seems like the Michelin starred restaurants of today are not complete without spheres, smoke, jellies, and foams. The go-to ingredient for these kind of chefs is liquid nitrogen.

During my trip in Bali, I was drawn in by an ice-cream parlor that makes its ice-cream on the spot using liquid nitrogen. That was something I had never tried before, because you can usually only find it as part of an expensive tasting menu. I asked the waiter to “cook” me up a batch of popcorn caramel ice-cream, and away he went.

Machines started whizzing, smoke started rising and after a few minutes my ice-cream was done. I was surprised at how good it turned out without churning. It had a great silky smooth texture. The taste was wonderful as well, sweet caramel topped with a handful of popcorn. I wish they’d started selling these here in China.

Fear Factor – 0 / Taste Test 10

Yakult ice-cream

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Yakult is a probiotic dairy drink from Japan with added bacteria that’s said to be good for your digestion. I knew it because my dad used to drink it, but I never tried because the idea of fermented milk put me off. Then in Macau I came across an ice-cream parlor that served a Yakult ice-cream.

It makes sense to use Yakult, as ice-cream is dairy based, so I thought I’d give it a go. I was a little afraid it might be a tad too sour, but my fears were unjust. The ice-cream tasted exactly like frozen yoghurt. There really was no distinction. I happen to like frozen yoghurt, so I was happy with my choice. Maybe I should try drinking some real Yakult some time.

Fear Factor – 2 / Taste Test – 8